ROCKVILLE CENTRE, N.Y. (CNS) -- Blessed
Oscar Romero's martyrdom, "the holy sacrifice of his life," during his
celebration of the "holy sacrifice" of the Mass holds a powerful lesson for
Catholics, said Bishop John O. Barres of Rockville Centre.
"He teaches us so powerfully
that our embrace of the cross of Christ in our lives connects with the rhythm
of the pascal mystery sacrifice of the Mass streaming through every dimension
of our lives and missionary spirit on Long Island and beyond," he said in a new
pastoral on the life and ministry of the soon-to-be saint.
It was released Sept.
23 in advance of the Oct. 14 canonization of Blessed Romero. In it, Bishop
Barres outlines ways the church can prepare for "this historic moment."
A native of El Salvador,
then-Bishop Romero became archbishop of San Salvador in 1977. He emerged as a
champion for the poor and an uncompromising critic of a government he said
legitimized terror and assassinations. His radio show and homilies drew
thousands of listeners and earned him the title "Voice of the
On March 23, 1980, in response
to increasing violence, Archbishop Romero gave a homily in which he told
soldiers to follow the law of God and disobey orders to fire on unarmed
civilians. The next day, he was fatally shot by an assassin while saying Mass
in the chapel of a hospital.
He was fatally shot March 24,
1980, during Mass. The Catholic Church deemed that his violent death was
carried out "in hatred of the faith," so he was beatified May 23,
2015. Earlier this year Pope Francis announced he would be canonized this October
along with Blessed Paul VI and four others during the world Synod of Bishops.
Bishop Barres suggested Catholics can prepare for his canonization by reflecting
on his "heroic life and sanctity" and by reading his homilies and pastoral letters
and various biographies written about him.
He called for "a more intense
commitment of the Catholic academic community to study the archbishop's
spiritual theology, missiology and approach to Catholic social justice teaching
and the corporal and spiritual works of mercy."
"Taking Romero scholarship to the
next level will enrich our global church immensely," the bishop wrote.
He noted that Salvadoran priests
and seminarians in the Rockville Centre Diocese have told him that Blessed
Romero's episcopal motto -- "Feel With the Church" ("Sentir con la Iglesia") --
is "particularly moving and inspirational to them." It means "to experience, to
live and to walk with the people," he noted.
Members of "our beautiful El
Salvadoran community on Long Island," he continued, talk often of "the oral tradition
passed on by their families and communities about the impact of Blessed
Archbishop Romero on their Catholic faith, their parishes and their country."
The diocese, he said, seeks the
advice of this community, he said, "on how to live in a more intense way the
spirit of the saint on Long Island."
Blessed Romero's human rights
legacy is so admired by people of all faiths and no faith, so this provides
a natural opening for the Diocese of Rockville Centre and the wider church to
engage in in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue and prayer, Bishop Barres said.
"The ecumenical and interfaith
opportunities can be summarized by the fact that Archbishop Romero is one of the
10 20th-century martyrs depicted in statues above the Great West Door of
Westminster Abbey in London," he noted.
Connecting the canonization to
today's issues, he said, also can come in the call for comprehensive
immigration reform in the United States, a nation "built on principles" Blessed
Romero espoused: "the dignity of the human person, social justice, the sanctity
of human life and the family, and a good Samaritan love for the poor."
Bishop Barres said the Blessed
Romero's holiness needs to be presented to "the next generation of Catholics."
He asked for his intercession "for a rich and new harvest of vocations to the
priesthood and religious life in our Hispanic community."
The archbishop's deep humility
and his embracing of the sacrament of penance is as profound as his "humanity
and solidarity with the poor," the bishop said.
"Blessed Romero understood both
the power of conversion in the sacrament of penance and how that conversion
could help provide for the social change El Salvador desperately needed,"
Bishop Barres said. "Like Blessed Romero, when we embrace the personal
conversions of the sacrament of penance, we see the global challenges of
migration through the lens of the kingdom of God and the prophetic mission of
mercy of the Catholic Church on earth, rather than through our own limited
"We begin to better understand
our own role in welcoming strangers as we follow Jesus' call and build a
genuine culture of life and civilization of love."
Bishop Bares concluded his
pastoral by noting that Blessed Romero "was no stranger to anguish and pain in
"We ask his intercession for the
healing of survivors of clergy sexual abuse and a new and powerful experience
of church reform grounded in holiness, mission and a commitment to dramatic
missionary growth," he said.
The Rockville Centre Diocese will
sponsor a pilgrimage to Rome for the canonization, and parishes also
will mark the canonization at Masses Oct. 14.